GUEST BLOGGER: Accepting Help: The Most Important Lesson I Learned From My Invisible, Chronic Illness
“Can I drive you to your doctor’s appointment?”
“No, I can manage.”
“Can I come visit you to cheer you up?”
“No, not today.”
Many of us are quite reluctant to accept help – even when we desperately need it – when we have a chronic illness.
“Why Is It Hard To Be Helped?”
There are many reasons including:
- We try to be stoic.
- We’re more comfortable as helpers, but not the ones being helped.
- We’re afraid that others will pity us or see us as weak.
- We’re afraid that we’ll be a burden.
- We think we should be stronger.
- We feel guilty we need help.
Do you see yourself in any of these excuses?
When I was out of work for 6 months and, in a sense, a full-time patient, I know I was resistant to accept support. However a friend from my religious community finally overlooked my protests, and one evening just brought be some “leftover” soup. This gesture helped me start on the path of accepting assistance from others.
Looking back, this change was probably the most important lesson I learned from my pain disorder, my chronic, invisible illness.
“Why Accepting Help Is Important”
Accepting help has many important benefits including:
1. It decreases your isolation and lets you become more a part of your support community, whether that’s your family, friends, or religious community.
2. You get concrete help – such as food, cleaning, or driving – that lets you save energy for other crucial activities, such as time with your family and friends, doing exercises which will help you heal, and enjoying activities which lift your mood.
3. You allow others to help you, which lets them feel useful and like they’re contributing to your wellbeing. One member of my religious community who cooked dinner for us told me that helping out was the only way she stayed connected to our church, as she usually couldn’t attend services. She thanked me for giving her an opportunity to help. During my illness, a wise person told me that for some to have the chance to help, there has to be others willing to be helped. It has to be a circle of support; it doesn’t work if there are only helpers.
4. We learn humility, that we need to and can rely on others, and can’t do it all ourselves.
While I can’t say I’m thankful for my illness, I do feel I grew both as a person and spiritually because of it. Learning to accept help from others was a silver lining of my ordeal, and one I’m grateful for.
Are you able to accept help or is it a challenge for you? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week is a chance to share how to cope with an invisible, chronic illness and live fully despite its challenges.
How to Cope with Pain.org is hosted by a psychiatrist who specializes in pain management. Although now mostly healed, she has also experienced Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS/RSD), a chronic pain disorder. “How to Cope with Pain.org” strives to help people cope with pain and live fully despite pain.